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Popular Photography magazine closes

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When a magazine can claim a history totalling eight decades, news of its demise carries special significance. Popular Photography magazine opened May, 1937.  Sadly, it won’t see a May 2017 edition.

Perhaps THE most popular general photography magazine in the US, its first issued carried an innovative and rather daring front cover. The smiling lady emerging from the shower with only a towel preserving her dignity must have been controversial in pre-war 1937. However, for photographers the significance of the cover was not (necessarily) the subject, but the way it was created. It was a full colour photograph shot by Stanley Young.

The cover of the very first edition of Popular Photography magazine from 1937

According to Wikipedia: The color photograph on the cover was made with a custom designed camera that used color filters to capture the image on three black and white negatives. Mr. Young sold these cameras for $1200 in 1937. The model is Claire Powell, age 22, of Riverside, Illinois.”

Colour photography for the masses simply didn’t exist in 1937. Launching a magazine with daring and cutting-edge technology undoubtedly assisted the magazine’s ongoing success as one of America’s favourite photography monthlies. The irony is that the magazine has now found itself as a victim of technology, with print magazine sales suffering as we embrace digital media. Publisher, Bonnier, was unable to make the transition to digital work commercially. PopPhoto.com ran alongside the print edition in recent years but the website is to close too.

A more recent example of a Popular Photography cover

Finally, a reminder of a more recent cover of Popular Photography magazine.


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